Silence Is Consent!

Demonstration 2011


Photographed on Old Town Square in Prague on the day of the memorial service for three Czech hockey players who died in a plane crash in Russia.

Tamara Moyzes had this to say about the photograph: “My friend and Roma activist, David Tišer (on the right in the photo), and I decided to go to this nominal place of reverence for Czechs – Old Town Square – with the names of the North Bohemian towns where neo-Nazi demonstrations against Roma were then currently taking place. Any sort of tragedy upsets me, whether it’s a national hero or a cleaning lady involved. Our intention was not to undermine the memorial, but to me it’s extremely dangerous when normal citizens march together with neo-Nazis and everyone else stays silent. So we wanted to show that if no one will speak out then soon we might have a different, much more odious national tragedy on our hands.”

Šluknovsko (in the North Bohemian Region) is one of the bleakest areas in the whole country. Several factories have shut down over the past years (especially due to the economic crisis), and thousands of people have lost their jobs. The negative impact on social relations has been dramatic, and the local population, experiencing privation, sought someone to blame for their situation, a defenseless scapegoat to point a finger at. Czech Roma offered an easy target as the majority population unjustly accused them of having a high crime rate, abusing the social welfare system, and being resistant to integration. Groups of right-wing extremists and other populists decided to capitalize on the increasingly tense situation and intentionally fanned the flames in the towns and communities of Šluknovsko. This escalated in 2011 when a mass lynching of Roma was attempted by “model citizens” in Varnsdorf, Rumburk, and in other communities, after which followed dozens of demonstrations against the “maladjusted,” and these continue to this day, though with less frequency.

Lukáš Houdek, Romani scholar and photographer